A Beginner’s Guide to VPNs

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Online privacy and anonymity are one of the most sought after things in the digital world in today’s time, and in the race for attainting both of these, VPNs have seen a huge rise in their popularity. This service has been heavily in use in the corporate world for close to two decades now, but the everyday users are only just beginning to understand how they, too, can benefit a lot from using a VPN and keep themselves protected while browsing the internet.

However, many people still don’t have a clue about what a VPN is and how can it be useful for them. We provide you the answers to both of these questions today.

What is a VPN?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. To understand how a VPN works, you first need to understand what happens when you visit any website on the internet. When you enter the URL in the browser, the request is passed on to your internet service provider, who looks for the IP of the website and takes you to its landing page.

Now, when you use a VPN, the role of the internet service provider is taken over by the VPN server you are connected to. Your request goes to the server and it eventually takes you to your destination address.

The following image probably illustrates this best:

What is a VPN?
Image courtesy of IPVanish.com

 

There are a few differences between the way your ISP works and the VPN server works:

i. The path taken by the VPN server can be longer than the one taken by your ISP, depending on the location of the server you are connected to. Longer path means more number of hops, which means a slightly longer time for you to reach your destination address

ii. The VPN server encrypts your connection. All the traffic exchanged between your system and the internet is encrypted, which means no one but your VPN provider can see what you are doing.

How is VPN useful for everyday users?

1. Privacy

We mentioned above how VPNs encrypt your internet connection. This makes your internet activity private and confidential. Anyone trying to monitor your online activity can only see that you are connected to a VPN, nothing else. This is especially useful when you are sharing sensitive information like your personal information or bank details over the internet. Not only do VPNs hide your activity, they also encrypt the data, meaning the data is shared securely.

2. Freedom

Many countries impose internet blocks on their citizens. People cannot access many websites, depending on the country they are in. This is something a VPN can help them out with. Internet filtering works by checking a user’s IP address and then deciding whether to allow them access or deny them. Your IP address can be used to determine your geographic location. But when you use a VPN, the IP address visible to anyone is that of the VPN server you are connected to. This means that you will be allowed access to any website you want, because it will look like you are accessing the internet from the location of the VPN server. A user in China can access Facebook by connecting to a UK or Indian server because of this.

Conclusion

VPN is the go-to service for anyone looking for online privacy. Many of the world governments impose heavy internet bans on their citizens, and most others censor the internet in their country quite heavily. The IP Bill passed in the UK is the latest and most drastic example of countries adopting severe censorship regimes. In times like this, VPNs are the best bet for users.

The internet speed can suffer a little when you use a VPN due to the longer route the VPN takes and the encryption overhead incurred, but the privacy and security that you are provided are well worth the slight inconvenience and the subscription cost.

Opting for a good VPN can help you make sure you have the best connection speed and other perks at the best possible cost. One thing to always keep in mind while opting for a VPN is that they have a no logs policy and are based in a country with no data retention laws.

 

 

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